"I think all writers should know their craft and write beyond life in their immediate area. America isn't the center of the world. I'd like to read more of a worldview or a universal perspective that reaches a greater readership."
This is sage advice from Dr. Martin Luther Patrick, whose storied literary career spans decades. A playwright and a novelist, he has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology.
Patrick -- of Jamaican parentage -- was born and grew up in London, England (he currently resides in the Borough of Hackney). When he was 18, he began his literary journey.
In 1985, Patrick entered London's Channel 4 Television script competition, placing second. Then in 1988, The London Theatre Coop named him "Best New Young Playwright." As well, he's has won other prestigious awards as a playwright.
In 2012, Strategic Books published Patrick's debut novel, "JJ's Isolation." Last year, he established Great New Writers Ltd, his own teaching and tutoring company. Its mission is to support aspiring LGBT, Black, Asian and Hispanic writers. As well, the prolific Patrick has completed his second novel, "Love Both Ways," which drops this summer.
This is Part Two of my exclusive interview with the engaging and rather candid Dr. Patrick.
EVANS: Welcome back, Martin! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.
PATRICK: It's my pleasure, Wyatt.
EVANS: So, give us the "inside skinny" on "Love Both Ways," your new novel that drops in just a few months?
PATRICK: "Love Both Ways," to be released this September, is a romantic gay love story about two recently divorced fathers who meet at a support group, and fall passionately and spiritually in love. The novel is set between 2014 and 2016 in arts circles and new media environments.
As these devoted and intellectual fathers fight for the love they need, their romantic nature and love of family are played out in some of London's most beautiful iconic locations. David is a black British music producer and manager in his thirties, and Michael is an Italian-born art professor now art dealer who has just turned fifty. As fathers with sublimated gay desires, they struggle to get out of their marriage for different reasons. When David and Michael meet at the gay father's group, they're deeply conscious of their emotional bond and erotic attraction. Subsequently, their romantic courtship helps them find the courage to triumph over their business colleagues' and family's sexual prejudices.
EVANS: It appears that "Love Both Ways" is a page turner that really tugs at your heartstrings.
EVANS: Did you experience growth in your writing style between the two novels? Do elaborate.
PATRICK: Yes, growth manifested in several ways. Firstly, I created a full character biography of the main, major and minor characters from the get go with "Love Both Ways." Conversely, I added and eliminated several characters over time who appeared in "JJ's Isolation."
Secondly, starting as I always do, I knew the entire character's arc from beginning, middle to end. Thirdly, I had my PhD knowledge of identity politics to draw on with "Love Both Ways." In the first novel ("J J's Isolation"), I was still developing that knowledge because I came up with the concept for it many years before completing it.
I have been developing my style of what I'll call "visual narration" that I've developed out of my love for world cinema. Having studied the visceral power of mise en scène in film, my writing style is to create character and narrative images in the mind of the reader, wrapped around evocative language. I'm getting better at doing this. (When applied to the cinema, mise-en-scène refers to everything that appears before the camera and its arrangement -- composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting.)
The opening chapter of "JJ's Isolation" reveals the character/story/plot through action rather than me recounting what's happening. I started writing for the theatre so I use every aspect of mise en scène -- setting, design, props and characters' action and reaction to unfold my story's action and emotionally engage the reader.
EVANS: Martin, it seems that the marketplace is becoming more and more saturated with LGBTQ works of fiction. What sets you apart from the "rest of the pack," so to speak?
PATRICK: I've read some stories that barely go beyond a set-up and pretext for porn fan fiction. I don't write that. What makes my work stand out is the issues of cultural identity discourse and sexual politics that universalize the need for people of color to control their own destiny. I'm dedicated to issues of equality, and so I often create a narrative universe of multicultural conflicts where people of the diaspora take steps to meet. "JJ's Isolation" has characters of African-American, Hispanic, Native American, European, Asian, Australian and African heritage. In "Love Both Ways," there are two major cultural traditions that I explore.
Additionally, both men have to learn to accept that their attraction and desire for men have gotten the best of them. The change in their sexual identity as former married men with sons and daughter compel them to question their lives. I enjoy exploring that subject because to me, romance is more interesting than sex. Romance requires a lifetime's attention to detail and learning to please someone else. Sex requires some people to please themselves now and again, and again and again until they become vacant.
EVANS: In 2015, you created your own teaching and tutoring small business, Great New Writers Ltd to support aspiring LGBTQ, black, Asian and Hispanic writers. What was your impetus for founding GNW?
PATRICK: I like teaching, I like helping people and I want to change things. The absence of LGBT writers in the "literary landscape" is unacceptable. The visibility and historical evidence of lived experience is one of the greatest things we can pass on to other LGBT comrades. If I can help to make some of those changes, I want to do so.
EVANS: Recently, I interviewed emerging and innovative African-American filmmaker Reginald A. Flemming for this same media outlet. I asked him, "What's your take on the continuing lack of visibility of LGBTQ folk of color--particularly black--in the media (novels, motion pictures, television)? How can it be turned around?" Do weigh in.
PATRICK: The first step is for black/Hispanic/Asian artists, dramatists, writers and filmmakers to "come out" and politically unite as a collective or movement that defines the core of narratives that give dignity to LGBT citizens; that is to say, people with humanity who must be depicted in stories about our lives. Consequently, when other people create vile stories and myths about us we are united in our aim to call those "trashy manuscripts" by their right name: rubbish! Therefore, when some uninform white dude gets it into his head to write about things he doesn't know anything about, we can disqualify his "work."
We have to define our humanity and take responsibility in protecting and setting standards that establish truths about our lives as dramatized through artistic license, and the philosophical psychology of our everyday existence.
EVANS: You've worked with my good friend, the late Mr. Essex Hemphill, the groundbreaking black gay/SGL author, poet and performance artist. He made it possible for both of us--and many others -- to break through. What are some of your impressions about and reminiscences of him?
PATRICK: Essex was a great person to meet and discover; I really admired his work. He didn't influence me because he wrote poetry and I wrote drama at that time -- and narrative prose fiction for novels now. What I remember most of all about Essex was his delight in meeting a black gay man from Britain. He had an interest in black gay voices outside of America.
We had completely different angles on gay experiences, but I liked the fact that he wanted to understand what life for a black gay man in Britain was like. He was a real comrade in extending his friendship and advice to a new writer in 1989, and I liked that about him a lot.
EVANS: Just what was Essex's impact on LGBTQ literature as a whole -- and black LGBTQ lit in particular?
PATRICK: In the UK, his impact was far less profound than in the USA. The size of the UK alone determined that. Also, there were issues then and now about being a black gay man that is "out." But the majority of LGBTs in London, never mind the entire country, were unaware of Essex's work. I'd put that down to a lack of publishing options and opportunities; consequently, the readership was rather limited.
EVANS: How do you see LGBTQ literature evolving?
PATRICK: Heterosexism is so pernicious and pervasive that it still disempowers and intimidates vulnerable people. I've come through hell and high water to get here. I've experienced the verbal and physical attack of homophobic psychopaths. Caribbean and African people don't approve of my sexual identity; but if I respected their opinion on that subject, I would have been destroyed. Therefore, I want to live to see the time when men and women recognize they have the right to write -- regardless of their sexual identity. Documenting our lives beyond fiction into biography could be a progressive way forward.
EVANS: Dr. Patrick, thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk with you on behalf of Huffington Post Queer Voices! It's been an invigorating and illuminating experience.
PATRICK: I appreciate the opportunity, Wyatt.